September 18, 2013.
Lecture 2 – Making Difference: What is Human?
Who gets to be human?
o Historically Africans and women were not considered humans
o Jews in Nazi Germany
o Great Apes have human status in Spain, and same is for dolphins in India
o Transgendered people, thought of as “it”
o Disable people (mentally, physically, etc.)
Who has to prove it?
o Many have to prove their humanity
How do they have to prove it and, if they are able, to who?
Who remains, after that, still less-than-human?
What are the consequences of failing to count as, or failing to prove yourself, human?
Directed by James Marsh
98% on Rotten Tomatoes
Been referred to as “great”, “powerful”, “breathtaking”, “It has a chimp in it!”
Oklahoma: 1973 – Institute for Primate Studies
o Carolyn (chimp mother of Nim) comforting her baby, preemptive preparation for
knowing Nim would be taken away; trying to protect Nim
o Nim was clinging for dear life as well as screaming at the trauma of being taken
Columbia University – Professor Herbert Terrace?
o Requested Stephanie Lafarge take Nim to raise him as her child alongside her
own human children to see if language would develop as a product of that
o Intrigue into what a chimpanzee might be thinking and feeling
o Chimps do not have the vocal chords of humans, cannot make human noises;
communication through sign language was the goal
o Stephanie breastfed him as a baby, everyone’s attitudes were focusing on
treating him like a human baby; not prepared for inner wild animal
o Nim and Stephanie’s husband didn’t like each other, Nim bit her husband at a
sign of affection; wanted Stephanie all to himself
o Taught sign language to Nim through repetition, observation, and association
Eat, me, Nim, hug, were among his first words
o Constantly rebellious towards Weir, touching things or messing with things he
knew that Weird liked a certain way
Saw Herb as next adult male challenge o Stephanie let Nim roam free, do what he wanted, didn’t discipline him especially
in terms of his challenging the male figures surrounding him
“Hippie mentality”, pretty much raised her children and Nim like Elayne
o Laura Pettito steps in, as babysitter, teacher and mediator; shocked at the chaos
surrounding Nim and Stephanie’s household
Went for role of mother to Nim
o Stephanie had a research interest in Oedipal Complexes, interested in Nim’s
o Laura and Stephanie conflicting a lot over parenting and teaching strategies;
Herb set up a classroom for Laura and Nim
His knowledge of sign language grew exponentially
o Stephanie lost grip on her role as mother
Heartbreaking experience of losing a pseudo child
Conflicted feelings about Nim learning language; felt he was less with
language than he was without it
Delafield Estate: Riverdale
o Owned by Columbia University, Herb was allowed to use the estate to raise Nim
and house him and his teachers
o Didn’t react negatively to being taken away from Stephanie’s household; was
free and happy at the estate
o Began potty training, used it; although unreliably
o Bill Tynan was another teacher of Nim
o Had a daily lesson plan for Nim, as well as visits to the University
Lesson plans included sign language as well as everyday activities
o Allowed Nim to create his own signs as long as he used them consistently
o As Nim grew he became more aggressive, attitude issues; would go into attack
mode at small gestures/lack there of
o Joyce Butler was another teacher of Nim
No previous experience with primates, no knowledge of them
Very dedicated and motivated though, fluent with sign language
Nim bit her once, she bit back immediately and made it clear he wasn’t to
bite her and he never did again
o Nim really liked the cat,